It’s not unreasonable to expect any incoming Secretary of State to require in depth briefings on a new role. Any MP who is elevated to a position of authority within one of Whitehall’s departments would expect their leading civil servants to sit down with them and help them get up to speed with the current issues, the policies they’ve been working on and to point out any difficulties and issues there might be. This kind of thing happens in local elections, general elections, European elections. When you’re the new supremo you want the support of the people who will be working with you.
Bear in mind then that Michael Gove MP has a track record of opposing many policies (as detailed in today’s edition of The Independent) here in the UK. He wont have had the same in depth briefings as the Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs on matters pertaining to the environment, climate change, farming and fisheries when he was SoS for Education … but … whilst schools and education are often a matter of policy and funding (and can be extremely emotive), ‘the environment’ is loaded with science, evidence and policy is founded on that. He has systematically opposed reams of legislation designed to protect, enhance and safeguard our local, national and global environments. He has chosen to reject science (provided by experts) in order to further the aims of those who have persuaded him that setting carbon targets is not a good idea. He even voted to apply the Climate Change Levy tax to electricity generated from renewable sources.
Pity, then, the civil servants in one of Government’s weakest departments, where after cut after cut the one thing they needed was strong leadership and they got Gove. Imagine briefing the man who not only failed to support your policies but actively condemned them.
At a local level I have briefed consecutive Cabinet members in the city council in Sheffield. They may not have had the education of Gove (he attended Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford), but they each approached the role with an open mind willing to listen to the officers who were professional with expertise and experience. I hope Gove is big enough to be open minded, to ask for advice and to seek expertise. If he does he has the chance to deliver the UK’s commitment to the Paris Agreement and deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals. If he doesn’t, we might just end up no better off than the USA under Trump when it comes to climate change.
However your city or city region is governed there has to be stronger leadership on this agenda. The 6 city mayoral winners have a big challenge to deliver what their individual component authorities may well have failed on. Yes, Bristol has shown how it can be done and London has had *some* success but has, arguably, the biggest challenges too. I would like to see Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham use this as an opportunity to accelerate the ownership of this issue within the Mayor’s office. In time, perhaps, and if, Sheffield, Leeds and Nottingham get to a position of agreeing a mayoral election, they might see the opportunities too.
The general election may be the immediate focus of political commentary but, today, elections in six city regions will bring an important new tier of political decision making to England that will be worth watching. The election of new metro mayors will unlock the devolution of powers and budgets to the city region level, giving Westminster the confidence to hand power down.
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Last year I wrote a blog outlining the Nottingham/Derby (or should that be Derby/Nottingham?) metro strategy. Following a consultation, a strategy with 4 key themes -Metro Enterprise, Metro Talent, Connected Metro and Metro Living – has been drafted and recognises that ” … if we are to fully achieve the ambitions set out within the strategy, a wider group of stakeholders will need to work together – many of these have indicated a commitment to be involved through the consultation, and key relationships are being strengthened.”
Nottingham City Council identified that “Developing a joint Metro Strategy with Derby can improve the opportunities for local people by helping to bring more investment and jobs to the area … and … with 40,000 people regularly travelling between the two cities, transport is clearly one area we’re keen to focus on. Developing more integrated links and realising the full potential of the planned HS2 station at Toton will be a key element of the strategy.”
One of the early measures will allow residents of both Derby and Nottingham to share services – such as leisure facilities and libraries – using a ‘Metro card’. The card will mean people in Nottingham could use facilities such as the £27 million Derby Arena velodrome and also get discounts in shops in both cities. But, it’s not going to be launched for a year or so …
Collaboration and co-operation is borne out of both necessity and opportunity. ‘Austerity’ measures mean that doing things once and in the interests of both parties can mean reduced costs and economies of scale. Taking unnecessary costs out of the investments needed to make both cities more attractive, investment-ready as well as providing the basic services citizens need can only be a good thing.
The way places develop and grow are increasingly being linked to their climate resilience.
Ask anyone who works on climate change and they’ll tell you the jury is still out on whether we’ll really get a handle on tackling it. On the one hand we have the fantastic success of the Paris deal. On the other, the recent U.S. election throws doubt on how quickly the low carbon transition will take hold.
Even before the election, the political ambition was at odds with the reality. INDCs, the technical terminology for each countries’ emission reduction pledges, put us on a trajectory of around 2 and a half degrees whilst the EU thinks to get to the 1.5 degree target of warming, we’ll need negative emissions technologies.
It’s no surprise then, that the World Economic Forum highlight failure to adapt to climate change as one of their top ten risks of…
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